Pawn Storm, a group of hackers has been launching a range of cyber attacks around the world. Trend Micro traced their emergence back to 2004 and has found that its targets include the defense industry, military forces, news media and politicians.
It can easily be mistaken for the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster: a shadowy group of hackers manage to spy on military, political and domestic targets, engage in false flag operations, and successfully sway public opinion.
Pawn Storm is an organised group of hackers that have launched extensive and far reaching cyber-attacks that have proved to be growing in ambition, and gumption. Trend Micro has traced their activity back to 2004, when they first emerged on their radar.
The cyber security group has released a paper that examines Pawn Storm’s operations within the last two years. The data includes targets, campaigns, false flag operations and details of specific attacks. The paper also provides some guidelines on how to defend against this increasingly relevant threat, as well as solutions that can protect organizations from Pawn Storm’s tactics.
The group – also known as Sednit, Fancy Bear, APT28, Sofacy, and STRONTIUM – doesn’t appear to be motivated by financial gain. Instead, it’s foreign and domestic espionage, as well as the calculated manipulation of public opinion that motivate them. Their targets include the defense industry, military forces, news media and politicians.
“It’s not just their espionage activities that are a great cause of concern,” says Anvee Alderton, channel manager at Trend Micro Southern Africa. “In 2016, Pawn Storm made an attempt to manipulate public opinion and elections, and made contact with mainstream media with a measure of success.
The fall out of these attacks are now reverberating throughout various industries worldwide. The average citizen is also not immune from their influence. Pawn Storm is engaged in steering people’s opinions with regard to both foreign and domestic affairs. The fear of copycat groups rising up as a result of their activities is very real.”
They have certainly made the news. Their hack of the Democratic National Convention received extensive news coverage, as did their theft of confidential medical records from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). This information was released in carefully timed manner specifically to harm their targets.
Over a two-year period, Pawn Storm became experts in influencing events and public opinion. They have attempted to discredit political figures and interfere with media. There have been a great number of incidences of fake news and fake news accusations, which to some extent, can be traced back to malicious groups like Pawn Storm.
Sources in the media have disclosed that they have been offered high-impact information by Pawn Storm, possibly with the intention to generate a certain perception or discredit various individuals. Some news agencies made use of this exclusive material, proving Pawn Storm’s success at manipulating the media.
“The hacker group has undoubtedly gained much ground in the past two years, becoming bolder and more sophisticated,” Alderton concludes, “It is imperative that organisations guard themselves against this form of cyber-attack. The damages are real and far reaching – and most definitely not the stuff of Hollywood.”
News fatigue shifts Google searches in SA
Google search trends in South Africa reveal a startling insight into news appetite, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The big searches of the year no longer track the biggest news stories of the year, suggesting a strong dose of news fatigue among South Africans.
“People ask, why are the Guptas not on the list of Google’s top searches?, says Mich Atagana, head of communications and public affairs at Google South Africa, “The Guptas are not on the list because South Africans are not actually that interested. South Africans are looking for things they don’t know. From a Gupta point of view, we’ve been exhausted by the news and we know exactly what is going on.”
Google South Africa announced the results of its 2018 Year in Search, offering a unique perspective on the year’s major moments.
“Four years ago, there were almost no South Africans on the personalities list,” says Atagana. “Over the years, South Africans have gotten more interested in South Africa, in searching on Google.”
That isn’t to say that international searches – like Meghan Markle – are not heavily searched by South Africans. But they feature lower down on the lists.
From the World Cup to listeriosis, Zuma and Global Citizen, South Africans use search to find the things they really need to know.
These are the main trends revealed by Google this week:
Top trending South African searches
- World Cup fixtures
- Load shedding
- Global Citizen
- Winnie Mandela
- Black Panther
- Meghan Markle
- Mac Miller
- Jacob Zuma
- Cyril Ramaphosa
- Sbahle Mpisane
- Kevin Anderson
- Malusi Gigaba
- Ashwin Willemse
- Patrice Motsepe
- Cheryl Zondi
- Shamila Batohi
- Mlindo the Vocalist
- How did Avicii die?
- How old is Pharrell Williams?
- What is listeriosis?
- What is black data?
- How old is Prince Harry?
- How much are Global Citizen tickets?
- How to get pregnant?
- What time is the royal wedding?
- What happened to HHP?
- How old is Meghan Markle?
Top ‘near me’ searches
- Jobs near me
- Nandos near me
- Dischem near me
- McDonalds near me
- Guest house near me
- Postnet near me
- Steers near me
- Spar near me
- Debonairs near me
- Spur near me
- Winnie Mandela
- Meghan Markle
- Sbahle Mpisane
- Aretha Franklin
- Khloe Kardashian
- Sophie Ndaba
- Cheryl Zondi
- Demi Lovato
- Lerato Sengadi
- Siam Lee
The Year In Search 2018 minisite can be found here.
Smartphones dip in 2018
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to decline by 3% in 2018 before returning to low single-digit growth in 2019 and through 2022.
While the on-going U.S.-China trade war has the industry on edge, IDC still believes that continued developments from emerging markets, mixed with potential around 5G and new product form factors, will bring the smartphone market back to positive growth.
Smartphone shipments are expected to drop to 1.42 billion units in 2018, down from 1.47 billion in 2017. However, IDC expects year-over-year shipment growth of 2.6% in 2019. Over the long-term, smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.57 billion units in 2022. From a geographic perspective, the China market, which represented 30% of total smartphone shipments in 2017, is finally showing signs of recovery. While the world’s largest market is still forecast to be down 8.8% in 2018 (worse than the 2017 downturn), IDC anticipates a flat 2019, then back to positive territory through 2022. The U.S. is also forecast to return to positive growth in 2019 (up 2.1% year over year) after experiencing a decline in 2018.
The slow revival of China was one of the reasons for low growth in Q3 2018 and this slowdown will persist into Q1 2019 as the market is expected to drop by 3% in Q4 2018. Furthermore, the recently lifted U.S. ban on ZTE had an impact on shipments in Q3 2018 and created a sizable gap that is yet to be filled heading into 2019.
“With many of the large global companies focusing on high-end product launches, hoping to draw in consumers looking to upgrade based on specifications and premium devices, we can expect head-to-head competition within this segment during the holiday quarter and into 2019 to be exceptionally high,” said Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.
Though 2018 has fallen below expectations so far, the worldwide smartphone market is set to pick up on the shift toward larger screens and ultra-high-end devices. All the big players have further built out their portfolios with bigger screens and higher-end smartphones, including Apple’s new launch in September. In Q3 2018, the 6-inch to less than 7-inch screen size band became the most prominent band for the first time with more than four times year-over-year growth. IDC believes that larger-screen smartphones (5.5 inches and above) will lead the charge with volumes of 947.1 million in 2018, accounting for 66.7% of all smartphones, up from 623.3 million units and 42.5% share in 2017. By 2022, shipments of these larger-screen smartphones will move up to 1.38 billion units or 87.7% of overall shipment volume.
“What we consider a so-called normal size smartphone has shifted dramatically in a few short years and while we are stretching the limits with bezel-less devices, the next big switch to flexible screens will test our imaginations even further,” said Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “While this category of device is still nascent and won’t see major adoption in the year ahead, it’s exciting to see changes to the standard monoblock we are all so used to carrying.”
Android: Android’s smartphone share will remain stable at 85% throughout the forecast. Volumes are expected to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7% with shipments approaching 1.36 billion in 2022. Android is still the choice of the masses with no shift expected. Android average selling prices (ASPs) are estimated to grow by 9.6% in 2018 to US$258, up from US$235 in 2017. IDC expects this upward trajectory to continue through the forecast, but at a softened rate from 2019 and beyond. Not only are market players pushing upgraded specs and materials to offset decreasing replacement rates, but they are also serving the evolving consumer needs for better performance.
iOS: iOS smartphones are forecast to drop by 2.5% in 2018 to 210.4 million. The launch of expensive and bigger screen iOS smartphones in Q3 2018 helped Apple to raise its ASP, simultaneously making it somewhat difficult to increase shipments in the current market slump. IDC is forecasting iPhone shipments to grow at a five-year CAGR of 0.1%, reaching volumes of 217.3 million in 2022. Despite the challenges, there is no ambiguity that Apple will continue to lead the global premium market segment.